How to find the RIGHT hires for your nonprofit

A note from Shellie: As we all continue to feel the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 health crisis, I’m sure your organization is feeling the stress and perhaps even frustration of being unable to run your services and programs as usual. I know many of the Rescue Missions we work with at Brewer Direct have had to shut down volunteer programs, cancel events and close Thrift Stores indefinitely. I acknowledge that it’s a tremendously difficult moment for nonprofits – and with that in mind, I encourage you to read this article about hiring and really consider ways in which hiring will help make your organization run as efficiently as possible.

You’re a nonprofit. You probably have a very lean budget and, as a result, a small staff. But now your donations have increased… or you’re seeing more and more clients… or there’s a new opportunity for outreach in your community.

You feel you need to hire to meet that need. And that’s stressful!

Here are 3 questions that can help you find just the right individual:

1. What’s the budget?

Nonprofits rarely have roomy budgets when it comes to hiring, but that can actually be a positive. It forces an organization with a leaner budget to look beyond experience and identify the “right kind” of person.

Passion is important but doesn’t always translate to the job. Sometimes, passion overwhelms people’s ability to execute the other parts of their work. For example, a major gifts officer may love the stories of changed lives, but needs to know how to translate those testimonies to the organization’s major donors to leverage large gifts.

No matter what size hiring budget you have, look for a hire whose passion to help others is coupled with a willingness to learn and a solid work ethic.

2. Where are the gaps?

‎When you find there’s a real unfulfilled need that requires new staff, identify the gap that most affects the stability of your entire organization.

I once consulted on the hiring of a new development director at a Rescue Mission. We started with their budget and, in the end, determined that the biggest gap in their current development program could be filled by a part-time church relations manager. The Mission would need a development director at some point, but hiring for that position wasn’t necessary to fill the current gap.

3. Full-time, part-time or volunteer?

When your staff’s existing bandwidth is stretched to the limit, it’s natural to think about hiring full-time. But that may not be the best way to go. A seasonal influx of donations or clients, for instance, may only require short-term help – and you may even find that your volunteers can pick up the slack.

In fact, often the best hires start out as volunteers who come to fill a gap and demonstrate talents, ethics and passion that an organization chooses to embrace permanently.

Your biggest takeaway? The best hire isn’t necessarily the candidate with the most experience. Determine your budget first and the kinds of roles that fit within it. Then consider the gaps that are most critical to your nonprofit’s stability and the roles that fill those needs. Consider short-term contractors or even your volunteers for positions where you can test the role’s impact and the hire’s fit within your organization.

  • Shellie Speer

    Shellie Speer-Burnett, Senior Vice President, BDI Academy

    With over 30 years of partnership in Rescue Missions and nonprofit organizations, Shellie Speer-Burnett brings her expertise, counsel and philanthropic-centered passion to assist in furthering the work of BDI’s Rescue Mission clients. For 22 years of her career, she served as the Founder and President/CEO of her own agency, ENEX Group, which helped her clients capture hearts and donor loyalty in their communities.

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